Sporting the moniker that she does, one would be half-inclined to assume that Californian indie rock singer/songwriter Starla Starshine is a puritan folk artist in the tradition of the 1960’s Free Love movement, but quite the contrary is true. As anyone who gives her new EP Red Lagoon a spin will find out in its three sterling songs, Starshine is anything but an acoustic-bound flower child with little interest in subject matter outside of the organic folk-rock lexicon. Red Lagoon is a bold, intrepidly crafted slab of dance, psychedelia, post-punk and surreal pop that doesn’t tether itself to any of the modern movements currently shaping the sound of mainstream western music. Starshine goes all in with us here and leaves a solidly memorable impression any way you look at it.
The titular track in Red Lagoon is perhaps its grittiest. Mixed with a raw, harsh tonality that squares off with Starshine’s melodic vocal, this song twists and writhes with contempt for the standard pop formula. Punctuated with gigantic, synthesized percussive parts that seem to crash into each other before we ever touch on the chorus, the grooves that make up the framework of the composition waste no time pummeling us with colorful beats. Ironically, as rife with atonal conceptualism as this track is, the instrumentation (namely the guitar) couldn’t be much more cutting and vivid in the final product. Just when it feels like the walls are going to collapse around us in this song, six fragile strings seem to repeatedly find a way to ensure our survival on the whim of a fleeting harmony.
“Lover Man” is a bit more saturated in physicality than “Bad Boys” is, but the contrast between the two makes for very intriguing listening when taking in Red Lagoon as a complete piece. “Bad Boys” has this understated urgency about it that is seductive and somewhat standoffish initially, slowly becoming the anthemic slice of pop/rock that it inevitably grows into. “Lover Man” is decidedly more patient, but features a guttural bass that is violent and flirts with recklessness occasionally, making the pristine quality of its vocal track all the more magnified. That’s smart producing, but moreover it’s provocative stylization from an artist who proves here that she can roll with the best of them – on either side of the soundboard.
Devoid of commercial filler and studded with sinfully addictive grooves that start out strong and finish just as well, Starla Starshine’s new EP hits the spot for pop and rock fans alike. There are a lot of layers to Starshine’s sonic profile that this record starts to dig into, and although there’s plenty of room left for her to expand this sound in future releases, there’s no question that we get a pretty good idea of who she is and what she’s all about in this extended play, as short and simple as it may be. 2018 was a pretty big year for her, but with 2019 now in full swing and the momentum behind her career not waning in the least, I have a good feeling that this is just the start of something very exciting from this highly skilled young performer.